5 Of The Greatest Set Designs In Film History

Here we check out five of the greatest film sets in history and the impact they had.

The magic of movies is that they can transport us to another place and time. We become immersed in the story, as if we are silent participants in the events unfolding on the big screen. The best movies draw people in with creative plots, great cinematics, and beautiful sets.

Production companies involved with the best films let creative artists run free to make incredible sets that allow movies to look and feel real. They make the stories directors and actors tell credible. Not only do sets make great movies, they also can set the tone in the fashion world.

They help designers and businesses dream about what’s possible and what the future might look like. It’s almost as if the visions of film sets allow designers to push the envelope in their work. Let’s take a look at the five greatest film sets in history and the impact they had.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel was filmed in Germany in 2014. Its director, Wes Anderson, is widely recognized for filming movies in far off locations and using creative sets. The movie centers around the zany goings on in the hotel. The production crew was able to transform an abandoned department store into an opulent hotel.

The team used the five-story building to create a film that won multiple awards. One of the largest challenges of creating the set was that the story occurred in two different time periods. A portion in the 1920’s, and the other in the 1960’s. The movie’s set is known for its beautiful designs with bright colors and attention to detail.

The hotel was built into a Feng Shui lover’s dream with straight lines, open spaces and wonderful natural lighting. The detail was driven by Anderson’s dedication to every little detail, and inspired viewers with the impeccable design. The set was an homage to older times and their pride in interior design craftmanship.


Waterworld may not have met with a lot of critical success, but the set was other-worldly. The premise of the movie is that water levels on Earth rise so high in the future that every city on earth was swallowed up. The entire world’s population was forced to live on the water and eek out an existence with limited resources.

With such a bold background, the set definitely needed to be on point. Shot on the coast of Kona, Hawaii, it took hundreds of people months to build the set that was over a quarter of a mile around. The director and production team had to create an entirely new world based on what would be available in such a world. Ships and makeshift towns are made out of scrap metal and junk, what many people would imagine floating on the ocean after a massive flood. The set had the added challenge of a lot of the structures and shoots happening on the water. Filming required a massive effort to ferry people every day back and forth from the set to the shore. The immersive world gives credence to the story that the actors are telling in the movie.


Ben-Hur is an all-time class movie starring Charlton Heston. The set matched the monumental story being told. It used over one million pound of plaster on 300 different sets. The sets were spread across 148 acres that used nine different soundstages. One of the most famous scenes in the film is an intense chariot race involving hundreds of people and dozens of horses. Remember, this was before the days of CGI and green screen.

The actual scene was an incredible movie-making feat. In fact, there was even a second racetrack built next to the real one so actors and horses could practice before actual filming. The visuals make viewers feel like they’re actually looking back at the peak of the Roman Empire.


The first Batman, filmed by Tim Burton, was a breakthrough in superhero movies. Anton Furst was the movie’s designer and won an Oscar for his work. The movie, shot in 1989, was built on the largest set since 1963’s Cleopatra, also known as one of the most famous sets in filmmaking history.

Tim Burton is known for his creative, immersive sets, and Batman was no exception. The set was built on a 95-acre lot, and it involved creating a dystopian city with ominous design, dark colors, and cars only previously seen drawn in comic books.

The movie still enjoys critical success, even after so many different versions of the film have since been remade. It’s known as one of the best in its genre and speaks to the difficulty of bringing comic book visions to real life on set.

The Lord Of The Rings

There might be no bigger saga than Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. The story spans years and tells the epic tale of different peoples coming together to fight an evil power that threatens to take over their world. The story was originally told through Tolkien’s imaginative books, so transforming them to film was an even greater challenge.

People who had already read the books needed the film to adhere to what they had envisioned in their minds. That meant the production team had to cover all the bases, including the creation of an actual hobbit town. The set was built on a 1,200-acre plot. It was previously owned by a private family. The crew had to build 37 hobbit holes, a double-arch bridge and a mill to make it look like an actual town.

But set designers didn’t stop there. They planted flowers and vegetables a year before filming on set, so the town looked lived in. The Lord of the Rings set a generational standard in set design. The movie took viewers from a hobbit town to an enchanted Elven city in the forest. Scenes were shot fighting dragons in abandoned Dwarven castles and intense battle scenes outside grand castle walls.

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